Reality Check on Emails – Why We Can’t Be Superheroes

A few emails over the last week have prompted me to publish this post and explain the reason for it being a little bit quiet on the Western Front here at the Cowshed.

Amidst the preparations for our end of year, Christmas, and New Year, was also our planning for our wedding. That’s not to say that the whole company found a new loophole in the legal system and got married together (hmm… doesn’t bear thinking about…) but me and the better half decided to tie the knot. I’m sure you’ll appreciate that there was a fair amount of work leading up to it and also a little bit of tying off afterwards.

Kris and Sarah were an amazing team whilst I was otherwise distracted and our clients have been equally understanding. I guess it helps following in their footsteps… a little empathy doesn’t hurt anyone!

But post-wedding, well, things got a little tough, lots of our guests fell ill with a nasty bug that had us incapacitated this week. It’s only now as most of us are recovering that most of us have realised that the silver lining of being incapacitated in this way has allowed us to realise how much of our work didn’t need to be acted upon as quickly as we had previously made it out to be. In fact, quite a lot of it, given that it had to wait and didn’t fall apart because we didn’t immediately react shows that we all probably have to go back and reset our expectations of who we are as professionals. We can’t all be superheros.

Realising our email habits and how we manage them has changed over time is extremely healthy for our mindset and stress levels. Many emails find their way to our inbox because the sender needs it out of theirs. Once it’s ‘delegated’ it is one less task for them to focus on so they can move onto the next. And behind those emails are people who accept that humans aren’t robots and occasionally need a life and therefore time to be out of the loop. Once we realise that (usually as a result of a chat or two), things seem a little less easier and the stress metre can go back into the green zone.

If you find yourself becoming a slave to your emails this year, make sure that you take a step back to avoid exploding. Just because you open your emails as soon as you open your eyes in the morning doesn’t mean you’re productive or setting a healthy example to everyone else. Don’t get bogged down by emails and sacrifice time away from the mobile/laptop/PC where you can sit and think up new ideas or solve gritty problems. You don’t need to write it down or set a reminder on your calendar, just have it in the back of your mind to do it every so often when you feel like you’re drowning in email.

Whilst I don’t recommend contracting gastric flu to really grasp this point, do realise the type of relationship you have with emails and don’t let it stop you managing your workload productively. Having a good methodology about managing your email will be a good start to helping you achieve a prosperous 2012.

Further reading: ‘Are You Hiding Behind Email?’ – by Richard Tubb


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